Black pepper stir fried soba with tofu and spinach

black pepper soba noodles - nouilles sautées sauce au poivre noir

In France, the terms “black pepper sauce” conjure up a thick, creamy grayish sauce slathered on a large chunk of beef at a Paris bistro. I’ve always been wary of this particular dish –I felt like the sauce was only there to hide (visually and tastewise) the deception that the piece of meat really was. Here, it’s the opposite of that. It’s a vibrant, light, deeply-flavored and exciting sauce that brings out the beauty of all the other ingredients: the grainy noodles, the golden tofu, the crunchy spinach, everything comes together in a big plate of perfection.

I might be in over my head here, but there’s something you need to know; September hasn’t been particularly kind on me and my family –nothing serious, just a lot at once, and clearly not enough sleep to tackle it the right way, so OF COURSE carbs are in order every minute of every day, at least in my head they are. In real life, I try (but often fail) to keep it clean, even though my head is spinning out of control to the point where as I’m typing this post, I’m literally obsessed with the idea of making a chocolate layer cake, and using my daughter’s almost birthday (does half a year + one month count as a birthday?) as an excuse. Anyhoo. In the meantime, dinner still needs to come to the table on a regular basis, and with this recipe I think I nailed it. It’s wholesome and awesome at once. Thank you, magic black pepper sauce, for putting me back on track all the while allowing me to stuff my face with stir fried noodles.

black pepper soba noodles - nouilles sautées sauce au poivre noir

black pepper soba noodles - nouilles sautées sauce au poivre noir

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Black pepper stir fried soba with tofu and spinach

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients:

For the black pepper sauce:

- 1 tsp freshly ground quality black pepper
- 5 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar (or honey if not vegan)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and germs removed
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
- 3 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 6 tbsp water

For the stir fry:

- 9 oz firm tofu, pat dry and diced
- 10.5 oz soba noodles
- 10.5 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed
- 2 – 3 tbsp sesame oil, for cooking
- sesame seeds, to serve

Directions:

1. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes, no more (they won’t be cooked through yet), drain and rinse in cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.

2. Make the black pepper sauce: puree all the sauce ingredients in your food processor, until smooth. If big pieces remain, remove, then set the sauce aside.

3. Cook the tofu: Heat 1 – 2 tbsp sesame oil in a saute pan or large skillet over medium heat, then add diced tofu and sautée, stirring gently and frequently, until all sides are golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. At the end of cooking, add 1 tbsp black pepper sauce, it will help browning, and sautée until absorbed. Set aside on a plate.

4. In the same pan or skillet, add 1 tbsp sesame oil over medium heat, then add the noodles, the black pepper sauce, the tofu and spinach leaves, stir well and sautée until everything is warm, the noodles are cooked and the spinach are slightly wilted (they don’t need to be wilted all the way through, you can leave a bit of crunch. Add the spinach a bit later in that case.) It should not take more than a few minutes. Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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black pepper soba noodles - nouilles sautées sauce au poivre noirMy tips: 

- If you only have shorts chunks of time in the kitchen (which is my case), make the sauce ahead, then cook the tofu, and refrigerate both separately in containers. When ready to eat, blanche the noodles then make step 4, it will be fairly quick.

Source: Pinch of Yum.

Spicy roasted broccoli and pepper couscous with lemon

couscous brocolis poivrons épicé - spicy roasted broccoli and pepper couscous

My back-to-school resolutions are still in full swing, as you can see with this amazingly clean and redeeming recipe. I could have (*could* have) added many a thing ranging from fresh goat cheese to sundried tomato soaked in summer oil, but no, September gives you that kind of strength. Or maybe prevents you from actually thinking through your meal plan and only enables you to toss together whatever’s in your fridge and call it dinner.

Totally not what I did there by the way. I’d been having that vision, a miracle vision, of broccoli and red pepper together in a dish, such a vibrant and colorful combination that I just couldn’t pass up. When inspiration strikes, there’s just so much I can do to thwart it. So I went with my guts, with a sneaky feeling that a spicy + lemony seasoning was just the ticket. Served with my white bean curry meatless meatballs, it made for a pretty photogenic and satisfying vegan dinner.

couscous brocolis poivrons épicés - spicy roasted broccoli and pepper couscous

Also, this very fall-y broccoli together with the ultimate summer-y red pepper felt like a good way to put this time of year in a nutshell. Yes, it’s still scorching hot in Paris, but no, I don’t feel like summer any more, as a matter of fact I’m ready to put my socks back on and get this new year started already. Let’s do this.

couscous brocolis poivrons épicés - spicy roasted broccoli and pepper couscous

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Spicy roasted broccoli and pepper couscous with lemon

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves 3 – 4 as a side

Ingredients:

- 1 1/4 cups (=250 g) couscous
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeds removed, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Espelette pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon (+ more for serving)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Place the broccoli florets and sliced pepper on prepared sheet, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Espelette pepper, stir to coat. Bake for 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to package directions. Once the vegetables are roasted, stir into couscous, add the lemon juice, adjust seasoning and serve immediately, or add a bit more lemon juice when ready to serve.

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couscous brocolis poivrons épicés - spicy roasted broccoli and pepper couscousMy tips:

- I’m not an expert in the level of spiciness in Espelette compared with cayenne, but my guess is if you substitute cayenne, use *much* less for a mildly spicy dish. Adjust the amount to your taste, as is, the veggies will be pretty spicy, but the couscous will balance it.
- Serve with crumbled fresh goat cheese for a non-vegan version.

Source: Clementine Cuisine original.

White bean curry meatballs (vegan)

boulettes haricots blancs vegan white bean meatballs

It’s always a bit strange to call a vegan recipe “meatballs”, but since I’m not a huge fan of quote overuse (do you guys have an overabundance of “homemade” food signs in your neighborhood? I’m never sure if I should laugh or cry at them), I decided to go bold and just stick with meatballs, no quotes.

Ironically, there was meat in my kitchen when I was cooking these golden balls this morning, only it wasn’t meant for the grown-ups in the house. I admittedly had a schizophrenic moment when I was cooking my oh-so-vegan white bean balls on one side, and my kid’s first omnivorous meal on the other. What felt pretty good was that I did not miss “actual” meat (there go those damned quotes again) one bit. I was too excited with this recipe to have any nostalgic feelings: it’s so quick, so easy, with pantry ingredients, and the result is literally golden. For someone who hadn’t come up with anything new in the kitchen in weeks, I was pretty pleased with myself. Please September, keep the inspiration coming.

boulettes haricots blancs vegan white bean meatballs

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White bean curry meatballs (vegan)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Yields 15 medium size balls

Ingredients:

- 2 1/4 cups (=550 g) cooked white beans (rinsed and drained, if canned)
- 3 tbsp (=30 g) breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp curry powder (use good quality powder)
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
- vegetable oil, for cooking

Directions: 

1. Puree the white beans, breadcrumbs, curry powder and sesame seeds in your food processor until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to finish mixing everything if the dough is too thick for your food processor.

2. Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Shape dough into plum size balls between the palms of your hands, and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, until golden and slightly crispy. Serve warm or reheat when ready to serve.

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boulettes haricots blanc vegan white bean meatballsMy tips: 

- Serve with pasta and a tomato sauce, or with a vegetable curry, or a simple coconut milk and curry sauce, or simply as is as appetizers.

Source: Inspired by La Fée Stéphanie.

15 summer desserts

15 summer desserts

As I was mentioning the other day, life in Paris in the summer can be really sucky. So you find comfort where you can, which in my case usually involves food. Thank goodness for the abundance of fruit this season, otherwise I’d be at loss as to where I could find said comfort, save for carbs and cheese, of course. But here we are in the dessert section, so let’s focus on 1) fresh and vibrant berries 2) lemon and exotic fruit 3) one (that’s right, I typed ‘one’) chocolate dessert recipe, because recently my better half came home from an organized party at a restaurant with a set menu, in which the dessert didn’t feature any type of chocolate whatsoever. Needless to say, he was appalled. And outraged. My reaction? “…Okay.” (imagine a “who cares?” face to go with it, but it might just be me).

So I’m realizing that for most regular people, if you’re going to come up with a list of dessert, that list will need to include at least one item with chocolate. Let’s make that a life rule.

(Click on the picture for the recipe)
riz-au-lait-de-coco-et-coulis-de-fraises-coconut-rice-pudding-with-strawberry-coulis-1-of-1-668x1024

Getting started with coconut rice pudding with strawberry puree sounds just right – these make you want to dive into summer.

cheesecake-glacé-à-la-fraise-frozen-strawberry-cheesecake-1-of-1-2-1024x682

Frozen strawberry cheesecake: the only kind of frozen treat you will find on this blog. I’m not much for ice cream, except, evidently, when it comes in the shape of cheesecake. (Another life rule: anything in the shape of cheesecake is systematically better.)

salade fraises menthe - strawberry mint salade

To round up the strawberry section, a simple, stylish and fresh dessert from the early days of the blog: strawberry mint salad with lime. That one’s for the lazy a$$*£ out there.

tiramisu-fraise-framboise-au-muscat-1-of-1-2

Transitioning from strawberries to raspberries, this strawberry raspberry tiramisu with muscat hits all the right spots, plus it has booze in it (=> muscat), so just lean into it.

victoria-sponge-cake-aux-framboises-raspberry-victoria-sponge-cake-1-of-1-682x1024

A slightly more involved yet airy and light version of the raspberry + cream dessert combo is this raspberry victoria sponge cake. For all of you out there who have birthdays in the summer.

gateau-au-buttermilk-et-framboises-frac3aeches-1-of-1-3

If you’re more into easy peasy summer cakes, this raspberry buttermilk cake is for you.

gateau mures citron -- blackberry lemon cake

Or you can opt for this lemon blackberry cake, from the days when I obviously didn’t have a clue what food photography meant (I cringe so bad looking at this pic that I actually conveniently forgot to add it in the first draft of this post) (Please move past the doubt and focus on the pretty juicy blackberries: they will take you there.)

financiers-citron-lemon-financiers-1-of-1-2-682x1024After another smooth transition (hey I didn’t go to college for nothing), here we are knee-deep in the lemon section –and I actually had to skim it quite a bit for this list– with lemon financiers, to nibble at coming home from an afternoon at the beach.

lemon scones citron

Or if you feel the need for more of a posh factor in your life, you can opt for these lemon cornmeal scones, perfect for a summer brunch.

raspberry-lemonade-bars-1-of-1

I love how naturally pink and cute and fun these little raspberry lemonade bars look. I feel like they’re children’s toys.

gateau courgettes amandes - almond zucchini bread

No smooth transition for this almond zucchini bread; it actually stands on its own with the amazing trick that zucchini is when all you’re wearing is a bathing suit day in and day out.

tapioca-au-lait-de-coco-et-banane-coconut-banana-tapioca-pudding-1-of-1-1024x682

Coconut banana tapioca pudding takes you instantly somewhere exotic, either for breakfast in a bowl or in smaller individual portions for dessert.

gateau chocolat lait de coco -- coconut milk chocolate cake

The one and only chocolate recipe on this list: chocolate coconut milk cake, no butter, no oil, just pleasure (because chocolate = pleasure, if I’m getting it right.)

crème-dessert-fleur-doranger-orange-blossom-pudding

Orange blossom pudding: because you are instantly transported to a fragrant sunny village in the Mediterranean.

tartelettes-pêche-kiwi peach tartletsAnd the cherry on top of this list (ha ha) are these kiwi peach tartlets, made with fresh fruit, crunchy, sweet and creamy at once.

Vegan lentil patties

steaks de lentilles vegan lentil patties

I’ve always been wary of vegetable burgers, especially of those who long to resemble meat burgers… Until today. I’d had my eye on this recipe for lentil patties for a while now, in my new favorite vegan cookbook in which I want to make every. single. recipe, and I’m glad I got started with this one. I thought I would have to make several tweaks before I get to the texture, appearance, flavor I had in mind. This one fits the bill and then some.

I actually don’t need all the burger shenanigans that go around the patties, these are perfect as is, with a few veggies on the side and a sunny summer backyard, or sweet potato fries –which is actually what I had for lunch. My not-as-vegan-oriented-as-me better half was sold with the first bite. They have the added bonus of a slightly falafel-like aftertaste, thanks to the cumin flavor, which does make everything better in life.

Now I want to try veggie burgers with all the legumes out there. What plans I have for the rest of the summer! Goodie.

steaks de lentilles vegan lentil patties

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Vegan lentil patties

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Yields 8 patties (serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

- 15 oz (400 g) cooked green lentils (see My tips below)
- 1 onion, thinly chopped
-2 small cloves garlic (or 1 big, halved), germs removed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Mince 1 clove garlic. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the chopped onion and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until translucent and slightly golden.

2. Add all the ingredients, including the remaining garlic clove (except the vegetable oil) to the bowl of your food processor and puree until incorporated, but still lumpy (do not puree until smooth, only until you can’t tell the lentils apart from the mixture.)

3. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat (use the same skillet), and drop a plum-size dollop of mixture into the skillet (with your hands or a spoon, the batter will be pretty sticky!), then spread it with a spoon to shape into patties. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Serve warm.

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steaks de lentilles vegan lentil pattiesMy tips:

- I cooked my green lentils with diced carrots and added ground cumin to the cooking water for more flavor (and veggies.)
- Almond butter being pretty liquid, you can lower the amount you add here for more texture in the finished patties.

Source: slightly adapted from Fait Maison Vegan.

Easy microwave hummus

houmous inratable - easy microwave hummus

I’ve finally reached the holy grail of dip kingdom: the easy failproof hummus. It had come to the point where I was *ahem* buying my own hummus, so lazy was I to make it on my own, not to mention wary of the result. All the soaking and the blending… I could never make it as good as the store-bought –don’t tell the food blogging universe I said that, my blogging license would probably be revoked.

Now I’ve got it down, and I’m not letting it go. So much so that it’s the middle of summer, I’m beyond swamped, what with all that sunbathing and backyard dining, and yet I just had to share this one with you. Right. Now. It is after all a pretty perfect summer dish. Takes five minutes, totally forgiving (I love when that happens in cooking), requires no complex maneuver on your part, and makes a crowd happy. Or just your plus one, who may even say it’s the best hummus he/she’s ever had. Only if you’re lucky. Enjoy!

houmous inratable - easy microwave hummus

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Easy microwave hummus

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Yields 1 medium bowl

Ingredients:

- 1 (15 oz = 400 g) can chick peas, NOT drained
- 2 – 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 drizzle olive oil (2 – 3 tbsp)

Directions:

1. Place the undrained chick peas in a microwave safe bowl, add the whole peeled garlic cloves, and heat for 5 minutes.

2. Place the mixture (with the chickpea water) in your food processor, add the tahini and lemon juice, and puree, gradually drizzling in the olive oil, until you reach the desired consistency (the more you blend, the smoother the hummus.) Season with salt according to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

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houmous inratable - easy microwave hummusMy tips:

- The garlic and lemon measurements are indicative; adjust to your taste. The same goes with olive oil as far as texture is concerned.
- This hummus keeps refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Source: Minimalist Baker.

Peanut butter and chocolate frozen cheesecake (no bake)

cheesecake glacé chocolat beurre de cacahuètes - frozen peanut butter chocolate cheesecake

A few weeks ago I was lecturing you on my existential crisis relating to veganism, and here I am today posting the most decadent frozen and decidedly *not* vegan cheesecake you’ll ever see. I’m a creature of paradox, I guess. Though this time I have quite the alibi for being paradoxical: I had to make a birthday cake, the kind you don’t want to miss out on, especially when you already did last year on fairly random (albeit honest) excuses. So this year, I wanted to make this birthday sweetness extra special. I knew it would all have to start with the magical peanut butter + chocolate combination, because that’s really the only thing he cares about in this world.

I also knew the cake would require as little prep as possible, seeing as I’m currently having another 15-pound project that requires quite a bit of attention as well, and it would be all the better if I didn’t have to turn on my oven and could make it ahead of time and store it without a hitch. So when I came across the recipe for this cheesecake, I could tell instantly I had a winner. I tweaked it slightly and it still amounted to something crazy great, so I think frozen cheesecakes are pretty forgiving.

If you find 30 minutes during your summer to make this cheesecake, I can guarantee you will make quite a few people happy –not to mention this thing will last you for days, unless of course you’re living with a pack of starved hounds who favor peanut butter mixed with melted chocolate –it happens.

For more frozen cheesecake summer goodness, take a look at this recipe

cheesecake glacé chocolat beurre de cacahuètes - frozen peanut butter chocolate cheesecake

cheesecake glacé chocolat beurre de cacahuètes - frozen peanut butter chocolate cheesecake

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Peanut butter and chocolate frozen cheesecake (no bake)

Prep time: 30 minutes
Chill time: 8 hours
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

For the crust:

- 28 oreos
- 6 – 7 tbsp (100 g) butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling:

- 7 oz (200 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 9 oz (250 g) mascarpone
- 1 1/4 cup (300 ml = 10 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 10.5 oz (1 heaping cup) peanut butter

For the topping:

- 7 oz dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 5 oz (about 150 g, or scant 1 1/2 cups) mini peanut butter cups, halved or roughly chopped

Directions:

1. To make the crust: Blend the oreos in your food processor until finely crumbled. Place in a medium bowl and mix with melted butter. Lighlty oil the bottom of an 8″ springform pan, then pour the mixture into the pan and pressed evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides with your fingers. Refrigerate for later.

2. To make the cheesecake filling: Beat the room temperature cream cheese and vanilla extract with a stand mixer or electric beaters for about 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Beat in the mascarpone until creamy, then beat in the peanut butter until incorporated. Beat in the condensed milk until smooth. Pour onto the prepared crust, then freeze for at least 1 – 2 hours before adding the topping (the top of the filling will need to have hardened a bit.)

3. To make the topping: In a saucepan or a double boiler over medium heat, heat the chocolate in chunks and coconut oil, until smooth and completely melted. Pour onto cheesecake filling, add the chopped peanut butter cups, then freeze overnight. Remove from the freezer and let sit a couple minutes before slicing with a sharp knife.

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cheesecake glacé chocolat beurre de cacahuètes - frozen peanut butter chocolate cheesecakeMy tips:

- You can halve the measurements of chocolate and coconut oil to make the topping if you wish: as it is, it is oh so yummy but also a bit thick to cut through when coming right out of the freezer (some will say it’s not exactly an issue…)
- Make it ahead and keep in your freezer for several days (just like you would ice cream).

Source: adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

15 savory summer recipes

15 savory summer recipes

Summer has been a long time time coming in my neck of the woods. In fact, depending on your location on the map, you may have heard of the floods we’ve been having in Paris –the worst in over a century. That ought to give you an idea on where things stand in terms of summer feel.

It’s bad guys, and every new day that we wake up to a rainy sky, we feel more and more down. We need sun! We’re wired to be suffocating in the subway and hating on the absence of AC anywhere in Paris public spaces at this point. Instead we’re forgetting umbrellas one at a time every time we go out, and wonder how long we’re going to have to wear our winter boots (sigh).

To remedy this, I’ve decided to take action, by pretending, at least on this blog, that we are in fact in late June, and that today is indeed THE FIRST OFFICIAL DAY OF SUMMER. I may be in denial, but I guess it’s the life-saving kind of denial. So let’s get started with all things tomato, zucchini and eggplant, preferably roasted and colorful because colors are life.

(Click on the picture for the recipe)
bruschetta-parmesan-courgettes-zucchini-Parmesan zucchini bruschetta is not a bad way to kick off summer.

salade-de-haricots-rouges-avocat-et-maïs-red-bean-avocado-and-corn-salad-1-of-1-1024x682

Red bean, corn and avocado salad, aka Mexican salad, aka cabinet salad, aka the easiest salad on the planet.

salade-de-haricots-verts-à-la-feta-menthe-et-noix-string-bean-salad-with-walnuts-feta-and-mint-1-of-1-682x1024

This string bean salad with feta, walnuts and mint isn’t technically summer fare, but it was too pretty to pass up.

salade-de-tagliatelles-et-tagliatelles-de-courgettes-au-citron-pasta-and-squash-ribbon-salad-with-lemon-1-of-1-2-682x1024

Pasta and squash ribbon salad with lemon — fun to look at, fun to make, fun to eat.

spaghetti de courgettes

Another variation on the zucchini noodle trend: zucchini noodles with roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and lemon.

gratin-de-polenta-aux-tomates-rôties-et-oignons-verts-polenta-casserole-with-roasted-tomatoes-and-green-onions-1-of-1-1024x682

Polenta casserole with roasted cherry tomatoes and green onions –because in case you haven’t noticed, roasted tomatoes = life.

salade de haricots noirs et tomates rôties

Did I mention I love roasted tomatoes? This black bean and roasted tomato salad deserves that much love.

mini-eggplant-pizzas-mini-pizzas-daubergine-1-of-1-682x1024

Moving on from tomatoes, eggplants are the star of this show, where carbs aren’t even invited. From all the positive feedback I’ve been getting on this recipe for years, it’s safe to say you can go ahead and make it, you’re going to be wowed — Mini eggplant pizzas.

quinoa-aux-legumes-rotis-et-c3a0-la-feta-1-of-1

You may have noticed a pattern here: roasted veggies + feta => always a win. Quinoa with roasted vegetables and feta.

caprese-empanadas-tomates mozza basilic

These caprese empanadas are such a hit that *several* restaurant website have used the pic above to advertise their own food. That has to mean something in terms of yumminess, right?

(If you’re not that much into dough-making, skip right ahead to these caprese phyllo dumplings, with step-by-step pictures on how to fold them (spoiler: even a seven-year-old can do it.))

salade haricots blancs et tomates cerise à la menthe

A slightly different and refreshing take on summer with this cannellini bean, cherry tomato and mint salad.

muffin tomates oignons rouge curry

I swear I’m not sponsored by a cherry tomato brand –but what I can tell you is that every other time I have people over, these cherry tomato, red onion and curry muffins are on the table.

salade du berger turque

I know you think this is so basic, but this Turkish shepherd’s salad goes so great with falafel, hummus, pitta bread, or anything really, that it deserves a spot on this list for sure.

salade mangue avocat oignons rouge - avocado mango red onion salad

A touch of exoticism with this mango, avocado and red onion salad. I don’t know what I like best in it: the mix of colors, textures, or flavors… So much going on in there.

bruschetta tomates

To round up the list, classic bruschetta: one of the very first recipes I posted on this blog — which goes to show even back then I knew what this was all about.